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1st January, 1818:
‘The Battle Of Bhima Koregaon’

By Pardeep Singh Attri

01 January, 2010

“If we wish to be free, we must fight. Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”
– Patrick Henry (March, 1775)

History of India is nothing but the fight/struggle between untouchables and so called upper castes. Historians those are ought to be rationalist, have always misled masses and never showed the true face of Indian History. Hence, this battle has also been lost into history and no reference is found in any history book.

January 1st 1818, when everyone around the world was busy in celebrating the ‘new year’, when everyone was in cheerful mood, but not for a small force of 500 untouchable soldiers were preparing them to for battleground. Who knows this battle is going to write future of ‘Brahmin Peshwa Baji Rao-II’? It wasn’t just another battle; it was a battle for self respect, esteem and against the supremacy of Manusmriti. This battle is important in history, as everyone know that after this battle rule of ‘Peshwa Rao’ ended.

In the early 19th century, the Maratha Empire led by Peshwa Baji Rao II was gradually diminishing due to internal dissents and setbacks in the previous Anglo-Maratha wars. Maharashtrian society under Peshwas had followed nastiest kind of social discrimination wherein the lower strata of society such as untouchables were confined to the stringent Brahmanical laws and subsequently their mobility and development were impaired. The untouchables had suffered the most in the 2000 year old caste system. But regimes such as of the Brahmincal Peshwas are the best examples where untouchables and the lower caste groups experienced horrendous and nastiest form of social humiliations to carry broom sticks on their backs and earthen pots hung on their necks wherein they released their spit.

This battle took place on January 1st, 1818, near the banks of Bhima River in Koregaon (north-west of Pune) between small forces of ‘500 untouchables’ (Mahars) soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 1st regiment of ‘Bombay Native Light Infantry’ and Peshwa soldiers. ‘Bombay Native Light Infantry’ was headed by ‘Caption Francis Staunton’. Compared to the ‘500 untouchables soldiers’ Brahmin Peshwa Rao’s force was large in numbers, they were more than 20,000 horsemen and 8,000 infantry soldiers. After walking down more than 27Miles distance from Shirur to Bhima Koregaon without rest or reprieve, without food or water ‘500 untouchables’ fought so bravely for 12 hours and won the battle. Battle ended not only with ‘victory’ over Peshwa but it become responsible for the end of ‘Peshwai’ in Maharashtra.

This battle had unusual significance for many reasons. First, British army fought this battle with a minuscule army expecting the worst, especially after their experience of the Pune Regency. Secondly, the battle of Koregaon was one of the most important events which helped tear down the Peshwa Empire and subsequently the Peshwa had to abdicate. Thirdly and most importantly, it was an attempt by the untouchables of Maharashtra to break the shackles of the age-old caste order.

The Peshwa's troops inexplicably withdrew that evening, despite their overwhelming numbers, giving the British an important victory. The men of the 2/1st Regiment Bombay Native Infantry, who fought in this battle, were honored for their bravery. The official report to the British Residents at Poona recalls the "heroic valour and enduring fortitude" of the soldiers, the "disciplined intrepidity" and "devoted courage and admirable consistency" of their actions.

Much praise was showered on the Mahar Sepoys of the Bombay Army who endured the rigours of difficult marches when rations were low and disease was high among men and animals. Whether they were charging ahead or were besieged or taken prisoner-of-war, whether they were storming fortresses or making tactical withdrawals, they always stood steadfast by their officers and comrades, never letting down the honour of their Regiments. Similar anecdotes are recorded in the written histories of the Mahar Regiment and Bombay Army. All demonstrate that most Mahars soldiers were dedicated and courageous.

This Battle was commemorated by an obelisk, known as the Koregaon Pillar (Vijay Stambh), which featured on the ‘Mahar Regiment’ crest until Indian Independence. The ‘Vijay Stambh’ reminds us ‘together we can achieve anything’. The monument has names inscribed of twenty two untouchables (Mahars) killed there, erected at the site of the battle and by a medal issued in 1851. Today, the monument still "serves as focal point of Untouchable (Mahar) heroism". Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar used to visit Bhima Koregaon (Shaurya Bhomi) every year on 1st January to pay homage to great Mahar soldiers of The Bhima Koregaon Battle.

On New Year eve, rather than visiting pubs, dancing and enjoying over beer bottles, pay rich tribute to the heroes of ‘Battle’. This all will show respect, our commitment, courage and awareness towards our rich history. One step ahead we can suggest or request all of you that in remembrance of untouchable soldier who fought and died for self respect and esteem in ‘Bhima Koregaon Battle’ over the haughty, superior and arrogant ‘Savarnas’.

For Further References Read:

1. ‘The Mahar Movement’s Military Component’ at

2. ‘Battle of Bhima Koregaon’ at

3. ‘Dalit Questions’ at

4. ‘Mahar Regiment’ at

5. Postal Ticket on Mahar Regiment at


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